No Joy At White Hart Lane

The dreary combination of Stoke’s lack of ambition and a lacklustre Spurs side drained the life from this sullen and joyless match. By the time the referee mercifully ended proceedings, the bright opening period was long since forgotten. Dodging the downpours and puddles on the way home seemed by far the most reasonable option.

Stoke arrived with a reputation and a glint in their eye. They clearly feel that Spurs don’t like it up ’em. We played the right team, Dawson back with Vertonghen on the left so plenty of height at the back with the Beast to add more protection. Yet we never really got going. In the first few minutes, Walker under no pressure passed the ball across his box straight to Jones who blazed over. We thought things can only get better but in fact that sums up the entire game. Like Walker, several Spurs players were diffident and distracted, having a peripheral influence only.

The referee added to the disjointed pattern. Booking Sandro and Vertonghen for high feet seemed harsh, then Whelan, the ‘victim’ on both occasions turned the clock back 30 years with a cynical, deliberately late challenge with nothing but retribution on his mind. No card. Meanwhile the keeper broke down the act of taking a goal-kick into 367 separate movements, all of which had to be executed, in order, before the kicking the ball. Aggravating though it was, their reputation preceded them. At one point the crowd barracked the ref with ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ when he’d given us a free-kick.

Anyway, none of this should obscure the lack of creativity and passion in Spurs performance. Sometimes you realise the true value of players when they are absent or have a poor day. Yesterday, Sandro’s drive and power was largely absent. It left a hole in the centre when we moved forward. Our attacking moves dissolved into isolated runs from individuals and we never established that high tempo which characterises our best work.

Dembele’s firm, angled passes were several times on the point of fashioning a chance but Stoke’s blanket defence stifled our efforts and the Belgian faded from the game as he has done since his return to the side. Adebayor didn’t think or work hard enough, while Defoe picked up the mood of the game and returned to his blast ’em from long range mentality. Both should have done more to work the back four.

Watching Spurs, I like to seek understanding even if inner peace is beyond any Tottenham fan but for the life of me I don’t get why Lennon and Bale swopped wings for almost the entire second half. Maybe it was because Bale slaughtered their left back, Wilkinson, a couple of years ago. Rather than creating width, they continually came inside which compressed the play, playing right into Stoke’s hands. It wasn’t as if Walker was moving into the space Bale enables in this way. Lennon faired better, running with the ball searching for a gap but usually the runs ran out of steam. Bale was relatively quiet but still set up a few chances from crosses in the first half and headed over at the far post in the second. His leg had so much multi-coloured strapping under his shorts, it looked like a squirt of SR toothpaste. He was feeling his way back into things.

Belatedly AVB realised that we needed to pep things up. Siggy came on and duly obliged. If we are trying the answer the question posed earlier this season of what exactly he does, for the moment this is it, to raise the tempo and/or defend from the front if we are ahead. He nearly won it with our best chance, a fine header that the keeper saved superbly low to his right. It was a thrilling flash of brilliance that faded as swiftly as it began, totally out of keeping with the rest of the game. Parker was on too – he could see it, dashing around like a mad thing at a corner. Pointless bringing him on to do this with 5 minutes to go. He might start at Villa – he’s ready to go.

While the thwack of Stoke boot on ball is still ringing in my ears, the fact is that they were quick on the counter and missed good chances, the best bringing a fine save from Lloris after the ball took a slight deflection from Caulker from close in. Also, we played into their hands and by the end were knocking it forward too, as we all drifted forward when we should have been moving around to shift their defenders out of position. Without width or guile, we made it easier for them to stay put in formation.

We are still there in the pack that’s bubbling under and we need to pass judgement only after the Christmas programme is over. Yesterday we forgot what makes us good. Pass and move, pass and move. We should know better by now.

 

10 thoughts on “No Joy At White Hart Lane

  1. I am extremely disappointed that we were unable to beat Stoke at home, even though they defended well. But I am still fuming at the loss of all 3 points against Everton, where we defended like schoolboys and gave the ball away too many times.If we are truly going to get anywhere this season, we must improve drastically because the competition from Arsenal,Chelsea, Everton, West Brom and others is very fierce.

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    • Looks like there will be only a few points separating that gaggle of teams who are bubbling under, dropping points as you say won’t help but it was our inability to stick to our passing game that infuriated me on Saturday.Or rather, helped me sink into despondancy so completely.

      Regards, Alan

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  2. Our attacking line against Stoke was not good enough. If we failed to score, it is not entirely due to the fact that Stoke defended well but rather because our players up front did not link up properly. Defoe and Adebayor or even Bale and Lennon were not at their best. We had many wasted corners and could not capitalise on even one of them. We have to show more of the winning spirit in the coming matches otherwise we shall be quickly overtaken by other teams. We are failing to win too many of our home matches..

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    • Agree re the attack. I’m not a great one for stats but saw somewhere that Defoe and Adebayor only passed to each other 3 times. They could be so dangerous as a pair. AVB needs to work on that.

      Regards, Alan

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  3. Looks like the promise of Spurs as a perennial top-four challenger is under threat. For all the talk of us being in better shape than Arsenal, we seem short on attacking ideas, bereft of leadership, and far too low in tempo to, while they have crept back into fourth place with a superior goal difference, and notwithstanding their indifferent start, have a coach who for me is still one of the best in the game. We need to sign a proper playmaker–Dembele makes cutting runs from deep but we don’t seem to recycle possession through anyone–one who can sit on the ball like Luka did, while the other players find space.

    On Saturday, were too laboured, needing too much time on the ball, and our movement off the ball was poor, as it’s been all season. Adebayor seems off the pace due to his inconsistent start; Defoe wasn’t getting any service from the wings which is strange, considering Stoke’s tactic of going narrow at the back. We seemed to play into their hands by our wingers cutting in and not choosing to go on the outside on far too many occasions.

    Parker needs to start so at least Sandro can get a rest; we need his leadership in midfield, someone to drive us forward when the other team are getting at us, and to show an example of courage to our young team. Sigurdsson seems like a good impact sub right now but and at least he seems to be direct. He has changed a couple of games and deserves a goal, which I’m sure will come soon. When BAE is back Vertonghen can go back to centre half, which means Benny will be able to bring the ball out from the back as he did so well last season. One worry for me is Kyle Walker, though. He seems very hesitant in possession and looks like he’s lost a bit of pace. It may just be form, but his marauding runs and last ditch tackles of last season seem a distant memory. I hope he refinds what made him so unstoppable under Harry because we need him back.

    One word: Moutinho. He’s as close to Luka as we can get – arguably better…

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    • Yes indeed. Thanks for taking the trouble to post in such detail.

      Sandro has had a long season already which includes the Olympics and Scotty is raring to go. I thought Walker had got his game back together but Saturday was a step backwards, although you wonder if it is tactics that is keeping him from making those runs. We really needed that width and with Stoke being so deep in the second half, he had the freedom to get forward. re Moutinho, I’ve said elsewhere that Levy should have swallowed his pride and paid up to get him.

      Regards, Al

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  4. With Dembele the only notable creative force in the middle, we were asking for trouble. We also don’t need to persist with Ade AND Defoe, as we have in recent games.
    AVB is going from a manager who wouldn’t bend initially, to someone who’s bending too much. For such an analyser he’s suddenly stopped shaping his team to match and outwit the opposition. If we win against the Greeks, let’s play the same duo up front against Everton ..away! I was beginning to like the lone striker aspect ..because we had Bale, Lennon, Dembele, Dempsey, Siggy and so on, all looking to strike too. Against Stoke, whose game plan we knew, we needed Dempsey behind either Ade OR Defoe, thus freeing up Dembele more and putting less pressure on the ‘holding’ Sandro (no wonder he was run out on his feet, having to do both his defensive covering AND try to be creative in the opponents’ half alongside Dembele). Or, AVB should have brought in Hud to play alongside Sandro, and push Dembele up behind the one striker. Then Bale and Lennon wouldn’t have had to swop wings and cut inside so much (and to no great effect).
    I’m getting worried about Ade. He works harder and looks a better player than Crouch ..but he’s not the nuisance big forward against teams like he was last season, and he’s starting to look less likely to score than Crouch ever did. All he and Defoe did was work and ‘run about’ …nothing incisive, no proper link-up, nothing! But I keep coming back to the heartbeat of the team. When Modric went (VDV was OK but he just muddied the waters in our midfield, so no great loss when he departed) we lost the ‘push and move’ style that took us to a whisker of leading the Premiership, and only ended with the Harry for England fiasco. We need someone like Luka again and quick (Moutinho or similar/cheaper, but as good) ..to link with either Parker or Sandro. Then we can release Dembele behind either Defoe or Ade (or preferably one TOP all round striker in January please who can combine the attributes of both, and finish more clinically). Think then of the havoc Bale and Lennon will create on the wings. On Saturday, Stoke had us all wrapped up like a Christmas turkey, so come the new year let’s ensure there’s no more 3 points out of 12 when playing the likes of WBA, Wigan, Stoke and Norwich at home!

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    • Ade is, um, rusty, after his late start to the season. I said in the blog that it is not thinking hard enough. he’s a fine player but he’s not linkng with his team-mates. I like two up front if we can get away with it but not if they appear to deny the other exists.

      Regards, Alan

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  5. I like one up top and a 5 man midfield. 2 up doesn’t mean more effective attacking and we ask too much of the central 2 in midfield. Ade and Defoe don’t really dovetail but exist in separate sheres up there anyhow. I think Dempsey or Sigi might be worth another start behind Defoe or Ade.

    Yes, we need a deeper lying scheming midfielder (most do), like Modric, but they cost 25-30 million. We won’t be getting anyone in Luka’s (how sad to see him almost constantly warming the Real Madrid bench) or Moutinho’s class in January.

    VDV was amazing, a class act, the exquisite long and short passing, the constant finding of a yard of space in the most interesting of places, always available for a pass, the movement, the slide rule and other subtle game changing, defence splitting passes, the goals (right foot, left foot, head), the attitude, the presence. A huge miss. But he’s gone too. Can Dembele play as a trequartista, between Sandro/Parker and Defoe or Ade? He looks like he might be able to, but I didn’t see enough of him at Fulham to know if he has or hasn’t played that role.

    We’re still doing okay to good, a draw at home to an always obstinate Stoke shouldn’t derail or detain us for too long. Sigi’s or Bale’s or Ade’s headers go in and we are a tough as old boots team who can eke out tight wins when frustrated and below our best. Slim them margins sometimes.

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    • I thought Dembel’s best position was in that freer role when he played at Fulham and when he arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to see how complete a player he is. He really works the angles with his passing but needs movement in front of him. I have high hopes – think he’s a top quality player.

      Regards, Alan

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